Polish footie has a monstrously long winter break. Whereas in the Ekstraklasa we have to wait until the end of February until it all kicks off again, fans of lower Polish leagues have to think of something else to do for even longer, these competitions only return to action in the middle of March! What this long wait does do is give us all lots of time to think about the state of the game here, and await what the transfer window will bring. For fans of Polonia, it promises to be an unpleasant January, with many of the top-paid players likely to leave and the press taking the opportunity to fill column inches about potential departures. But the Ekstraklasa is only the tip of the Polish football iceberg. There are over 400,000 registered players in Poland who play in the country’s pyramid football system. Over the next weeks as Polish football sleeps I’m going to take a look at some of the Warsaw area* teams who participate in this system. But before I do so I want to give you all a brief introduction to the Polish football pyramid and how it relates to footie in Warsaw. So here goes**.
(*I have included clubs administered by the former Warsaw Regional Football Association which is now administered directly by the Mazovian Provincial Football Association).
(**For the sake of my sanity I only deal with promotion and relegation permutations fully down to the fourth Polish tier. I’ll go into more detail about some of this in future weeks don’t worry!).
The Polish football pyramid
The Ekstraklasa, – the pinnacle of Polish club football. Made up of 16 clubs. The champions go into the Champions League qualifiers and second and third qualify for the Europa League. The two bottom sides are relegated to tier two.
Polonia Warsaw – current position: 3rd
Legia Warsaw – current position: 1st
The 1 Liga (English – First league). Made up of 18 clubs. The top two sides are promoted to the Ekstraklasa. The bottom four sides are relegated to tier three.
Warsaw area clubs:
Dolcan Ząbki – current position: 10th
The II Liga (English – Second League) is divided into two divisions based on clubs’ geographical location. In England we had this with the former division three North (N) and South (S). Unlike blighty however, Poland mentally divides its territory into East and West with the West generally being more economically developed. The two divisions are thus II Liga East and II Liga West both made up of 18 clubs. The top two teams from both divisions go up to the I Liga and the bottom two teams drop down to tier four.
Warsaw area clubs
II Liga East
Świt Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki – current position: 17th
Znicz Pruszków – current position: 7th
Znicz Pruszków fans
The III Liga (English – third league) is only partly national. At this tier there are 8 groups, 1 each for 2 Polish provinces (Poland is divided into 16 provinces). Warsaw area clubs play in the III Liga for the Mazovian/Łódź provinces which is made up of 16 clubs. Only one team from this III Liga is promoted to the II Liga and the bottom three sides are relegated to tier five.
Warsaw area clubs
GKP Targówek – current position: 9th
Pogoń Grodzisk Mazowiecki – current position: 8th
KS Legionovia Legionowo – current position: 1st
Mazur Karczew – current position: 13th
Start Otwock – current position: 10th
Ursus Warszawa – current position: 3rd
GKP Targówek fans
The IV Liga (English – fourth league) are leagues run by Polish Provincial Football Assocations as are all tiers lower than this. There is one IV Liga for each province apart from the Mazovian, Greater Polish, Silesian and Lesser Polish provinces where there are two. Warsaw area clubs play in the two Mazovian provincial IV Ligas which are both made up of 16 clubs.
Those clubs who fall out of the Liga IV end up in the Liga Okręgowa (English – District League). There are 55 Ligi Okręgowe spread across the Polish provinces. The Warsaw area has two Ligi Okręgowe which both consist of 16 clubs.
Example Warsaw area club
PKS Radość – current position: 3rd
As we make our way towards the bottom of the Polish pyramid system we find ourselves in Klasa ‘A’ (English – Class ‘A’). There are 122 Klasy ‘A’ leagues in Poland. The Warsaw area has four Klasy ‘A’ consisting of 55 clubs.
We now find ourselves at the very bottom of the Polish football pyramid as far as Warsaw and the province of Mazovia goes. In Poland there are 185 Klasy ‘B’ (English – Class ‘B’) leagues. The Warsaw area itself has four Klasy ‘B’ consisting of 48 clubs.
Example Warsaw area club
Błyskawica Warszawa – Klasa ‘B’ Warsaw group one – current position: 6th
The lowest level of Polish football is Klasa ‘C’ (English – Class C). There are 23 Klasy ‘C’ in Poland but only five Polish provinces run leagues at this level. Mazovia does not run a Klasa ‘C’.
Check back in future weeks as I focus on one club from each level in the Warsaw area. Each post will move a tier up, until finally I have a look at Dolcan Ząbki, Warsaw’s Liga I (2nd tier) team.